RBC I On Nov. 18, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that analyzes 65 existing oil and gas leases located on the White River National Forest, including leases in the Thompson Divide area.
The 49-day public comment period on the DEIS began when the Environmental Protection Agency’s Notice of Availability for the Draft EIS published in the Federal Register on Nov. 20 and will run through Jan. 8.
“We appreciate the effort of the local community in this discussion,” said BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch. “We will continue to work toward finding a path forward that balances energy development and conservation while recognizing the White River National Forest’s planning efforts.”
The EIS presents five alternatives for the public to provide comment on, ranging from no changes to the existing leases to canceling them in their entirety. The final alternative the BLM ultimately selects may incorporate components of two or more of the alternatives presented in the Draft EIS.
The Proposed Action in the EIS (Alternative 4) tracks the proposed decision in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2014 Draft Record of Decision with respect to areas that would be open and closed to future oil and gas leasing in the White River National Forest. The Proposed Action would cancel all or part of 25 existing leases in areas closed to future leasing by the Forest Service.
“We appreciate the input we have received from the public and local governments throughout this process, and we look forward to continuing public interest and input,” said Colorado River Valley Field Manager Karl Mendonca. “The most effective public comments on this Draft EIS will be specific to the alternatives and analysis in the EIS.”
The leases in question are almost entirely on land managed by the U. S. Forest Service. The BLM is undertaking this EIS to address deficiencies in the environmental analyses used to support the issuance of those leases previously as identified by the Interior Board of Land Appeals in a 2007 decision.
While the U.S. Forest Service determines which of its lands are available for oil and gas leasing and conducts the environmental analysis for those availability decisions, the BLM must either formally adopt the Forest Service analysis or perform its own analysis prior to issuing oil and gas leases based on those determinations. For 65 of the existing leases in the White River National Forest, the BLM did not formally adopt the U.S. Forest Service’s analysis nor did it conduct its own prior to issuing those leases.
The EIS process currently underway addresses that deficiency.
Separate from the BLM’s process for the 65 existing leases, the U.S. Forest Service has recently completed its own EIS looking at future leasing in the White River National Forest. The BLM’s EIS incorporates much of the information and analysis from the U.S. Forest Service EIS.
The EIS will serve as a guide for future leasing in the White River National Forest. The Forest Service released its draft Record of Decision in December 2014. Additional information can be found on the Forest Service’s website at www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
The BLM will host three public meetings on the DEIS from 4-7 p.m., at the following locations: Dec. 14: Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfson Rd., Glenwood Springs; Dec. 15, DeBeque Elementary School, 730 Minter Ave., De Beque; and Dec. 16, Roaring Fork High School, 2270 Hwy 133, Carbondale
Additional information about the EIS is available at: www.blm.gov/co/crvfo.
Comments on the Draft EIS need to be received by Jan. 8, 2016, and may be emailed to WRNFleases@blm.gov; faxed to 970-876-9090; or mailed to BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Attn: WRNF Leases, 2300 River Frontage Rd., Silt, Colo. 81652.
Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.